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Niagara Falls and area, Ontario, Canada

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Did You Know…?

  • The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor (1901).
  • The Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course is North America’s oldest operating course (c. 1875).
  • On summer days, the U.S. and Canada divert half Niagara’s water for electricity, but divert three-quarters when tourists aren’t looking.
  • The water at Niagara Falls plunges 32 feet per second.
  • The name Niagara, based on Native American languages, means Thundering of Waters.

Majestic waters

Niagara Falls encompasses three waterfalls (American, Bridal and Horseshoe) on the Niagara River. The 35-mile river, which sits astride the U.S.-Canada border, connects lakes Erie and Ontario. Niagara Falls also is the name of two towns, one on each side of the river.

The dramatically cascading waters are the central attraction but, in both countries, governmental parks authorities and private tourism interests have created or developed other attractions, giving tourists reasons to hang around longer than it takes to admire a fabulous work of nature.

Indeed, admiring Niagara Falls assumes many forms. Visitors can do their sightseeing (or gaping) at sea or on land at fairly close range. Or, for overviews, they can go to a high-rise observation point, ride over the Niagara whirlpool in a cable car or sightsee by helicopter.

In the area of the falls, the tourist playground on the Canadian side is a spit of land called the Niagara Peninsula. The peninsula, situated between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, boasts dozens of wineries, packaged for visitors as the Niagara Wine Route. Ice wine is a specialty.

Location — in this case, on major waterways and a national frontier —explains how the area became a major battleground during the War of 1812. Fighting between American and British armies left Fort Erie the bloodiest battlefield on Canadian soil. Visitors can tour or attend events at two rebuilt Canadian forts — Fort Erie on Lake Erie where the Niagara River begins and Fort George at Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the river enters Lake Ontario.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charmer with its own history. It was briefly capital of the Upper Canada colony. Americans burned it during the War of 1812. Rebuilt soon after, it boasts historic inns and North America’s oldest golf course — and one can book high tea here.

Select museums on the peninsula highlight the War of 1812 plus the area’s later involvement in the Underground Railroad for escaped American slaves. Developers added the resort element, with high-rise hotels, casinos, spas, waterparks and museums featuring lighter content — movie stars, Guinness records and the like. However, Marineland is educational — and the Daredevil Museum instructive!

Things to do for Venturers

  • Choose the Journey Behind the Falls for a close-in view of the curved section of the falls, Canada’s Horseshoe Falls. Or see this natural wonder from a helicopter.
  • Or, take an open-air jetboat trip in the whitewater below the falls. (There is an enclosed version of the jetboat ride, too.)
  • Visit the Daredevil Museum of Niagara Falls, which highlights an ill-advised idea for adventure at the falls — plunging over the edge in a barrel.
  • Cycle or hike the approximately 90 miles of the Greater Niagara Circle Route of mostly off-road, paved trails. Starting in St. Catharines, it follows the Welland Canal to Port Colborne, the old CN Railway route to Fort Erie, the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Lakeshore Road back to St. Catharines.
  • Rollerblade your way along the Niagara Parks Recreation Trail.
  • Get married at Niagara Falls. Explore optional finishing touches, which, depending on venue, may include a musket firing demonstration or even a “surprise attack” by reenactors.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Plan a winery tour by bicycle — and this does take planning. There are more than 70 wineries on the Niagara Wine Route. Taste local ice wine.
  • Learn about Niagara’s role in the Underground Railroad at the St. Catharines Museum in St. Catharines.
  • Pursue an interest in the War of 1812 at Old Fort Erie. In summer, attend a reenactment event, i.e., the annual replay of an 1814 British siege targeting Americans who held the fort for a time.
  • See a George Bernard Shaw play — or plays by a selection of other playwrights — presented by the Shaw Festival, a theater company in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • See Niagara Falls from overhead in a cable car, which takes you out over the Niagara whirlpool. The cables are anchored at two different points on the Canadian side of Niagara River.
  • Stay in one of the area’s B&Bs or a historic inn. Choose one of the vintage facilities in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Sign on for a boat trip that takes you up to the foot of Niagara Falls. For a high-rise view of the falls, ride the elevator to the top of Skylon Tower — then, see the falls illuminated at night.
  • Take the kids on one of the area’s water parks, and take the kid in you to the Butterfly Conservatory.
  • Play golf. There are more than 40 courses to choose from.
  • Enjoy the casinos in Niagara Falls, the town, for the gaming and the entertainment.
  • Smell the roses, or whatever is abloom, at the Niagara Botanical Gardens. There are museums, too, including a Guinness World of Records Museum and the Movieland Museum of Stars.
  • Take high tea in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Sightsee there in a horse-drawn buggy.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation at www.ontariotravel.net